Misplaced Innocence

robinsonI confess that I willingly traded my virginity for a filet mignon. In my defense, however, it was wrapped in bacon and cooked to perfection. Bacon…. Huh. Oddly enough it just occurs to me now that this may be the very reason that I have long been so powerfully drawn to the irresistible, wafting, aroma of sizzling strips of marbled pork. True. Even during my twenties when I spent a decade or so as a quasi-vegetarian. I remember during those years – while it was never too difficult to refrain from most carnivorous consumptions – I always had a very difficult time saying no to Farmer John and Oscar Mayer; those two tasty guys with their overpowering, seductive, come-hither, morning scent. Oh sure I would try to stay away. I even attempted on a number of occasions to appease my crispy, nitrate cravings with turkey – you know, Jennie-O. And yeah, I would be able to stick with that for a while, but in the end Jennie-O just never seemed to completely satisfy me in the way that Farmer John or Oscar Mayer did. And so inevitably, of course, I would always end up giving in to that undeniable craving for what it was that I truly desired. It all makes perfect sense to me now. Bacon.

But I digress. This is supposed to be a story about the loss of innocence – or more honestly stated – innocence misplaced. And because this is my coming of age story – recounted here for posterity, so that my son will have an account should my mind falter or my body fail before he and I are able to have “the talk” – I would like my tale to be conveyed with a certain feeling, or sentiment, if you will. Specially, I would like it to conjure in the readers mind – my son’s mind – a feeling of time-worn, muted nostalgia. Like when you take a picture of a loved one, download and drag that image into Photoshop, click the effects button, and then heavily blur the edges of the portrait in the hopes that the application of some artificial, fuzzy, haloed boarder will in some way help communicate to a less invested viewer, the depth of feeling that you yourself have for the subject. Yes. I want this story to come across like that. So, before you read on – pause for a moment. Relax. Think of a simpler time. Breathe in. Breathe out. And in your mind’s eye – blur the edges.

supertrampI was a sixteen-year-old, high school junior, and still reeling from the joyful accomplishment of being accepted into the advanced, combined, fifth and sixth period drama classes – known as play production. This monumental feat had required an audition, and most importantly my granted entre into this teenage, ragtag, theatrical troupe had afforded me – for the first time – an actual group of friends. They were a crazy, cool, troubled, confused, and talented assemblage of joint rolling, Renaissance Faire strolling, Zuma Beach-bumming, and Supertramp humming band of brothers, and sisters, and inbetwixters. We were a little like Glee – with feathered hair and puka shells. They were my life supporting, social network. And back then a social network was a group of people whose phone numbers you knew by heart, and who would be there for you without question when you called them – at home – which is where they needed to be if you wanted to call them on a telephone. I have no doubt that in our time together I was at one point in and out of love with each and every one of them. For purposes of my narrative here, however, I will focus on one of the females in particular.

MMShe was a senior; a year ahead of me. My very own Mrs. Robinson – or Miss Robinson – or better yet, let’s just call her Robin. Robin was the beautiful, dark-haired, buxom daughter of a condo-dwelling divorcée. We eventually became a couple that year – luckily for me – partly because her former boyfriend graduated the year prior and had left Robin unencumbered. As I recall, most of our time spent together was at school, or after classes in rehearsals for whichever show we were preparing to put up next on the boards. Most notably in that particular year was our rollicking rendition of Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man, in which I played River City’s bad-boy, Tommy Djilas, to Robin’s rebellious Zaneeta Shinn, the daughter of the town’s stuffed shirt of a mayor. Like so many of the Grover Cleveland High, play production, glamour couples that had come before us, Robin and I we were cast as lovers both on stage and off.  Our on campus romance took a decidedly more physical turn one evening when Robin invited me over for dinner. As I entered the condominium’s front door, Robin’s mother passed by me with her coat and purse in hand. “Have a good ni-ight,” her mom said – a little singsongy – as she exited and closed the door behind her.  Robin explained to me that her mother was out for the evening, and that her brother was at a sleepover. She then went through the dinner menu, which was to begin with a main course of filet mignon wrapped in bacon, and end with something Robin simply referred to as dessert.

As the succulent meal was coming to a close, and the time drew nearer to when my mom was scheduled to pick me up and take me home, Robin stood up and grabbed my hand. “It’s time for dessert,” she said. She tugged at my arm a bit, and I rose and followed her up a narrow flight of stairs to her bedroom on the second level. The manner in which we removed our clothes was far more serviceable than it was seductive, and before I knew it our horizontal, naked bodies were pressed together on her quilted, bed-top comforter. In that moment, there was no discussion of condoms or birth control as I recall, but I found out later that she was on the pill. Transition into real time; there was some positioning; some repositioning; a few one word instructions from Robin; a little more repositioning; and then – from me – one massive, convulsing shudder. End real time. Almost immediately we were up and dressing in preparation for my mother’s arrival.  Before we headed back down stairs, Robin yanked the comforter off the top off her bed, and as she opened the closet and stuffed it in the hamper, she chided, “Next time, come inside.” When I next returned to school there were some very deliberate pats on the back from a couple of the guys, and a wink or two from the girls, so clearly Robin had leaked the details of our dinner menu to some of the group.  All in all, what the experience lacked in finesse and spontaneity, it more than made up for in support and camaraderie. There were in deed a few more next times with Robin, before she too graduated and left me unencumbered as I entered my senior year.

I expect, with modern medicine on my side, that I will indeed be afforded the blessedly awkward opportunity of sharing face to face with my son this somewhat unremarkable story of a young man’s first glory. And, if God grants me the facility, the in person explanation will be more adequately laced with deep and thoughtful ponderings on the significance of love and responsibility; the importance of protecting your health and your heart; and the great pride and ultimate satisfaction that comes from genuinely honoring and safeguarding the spirit of your partner above all else.  I do believe I will have that chance with him. I do. But if another firestorm should come, and I am not fortunate enough to again be standing in the glorious afterglow, I have here left at least some general semblance of the somewhat sloppy saga of my misplaced innocence, in addition to one plausible hypothesis for my inexplicable weakness when it comes to the greasy, pan-fried, savory, porky, goodness – that forever is…